Disclaimer: Star Wars belongs to George Lucas and company. I'm just screwing around.
Chapter 2: Collision Course
Leia watched the world of Tatooine grow smaller and smaller as the Tantive IV rose through the thin atmosphere of the desert planet and began cruising through deep space. She shifted her gaze from the viewports of the observation gallery located near her quarters to the man, or boy, standing across the circular gallery, his blue eyes still focused on the world where he had lived for most of his life. Leia felt the ship shudder and lurch slightly as the hyperdrive engines engaged, and the stars stretched into starlines and finally into the mottled blue and black of hyperspace. Even with his homeworld already out of sight, Luke Skywalker continued to stare at the same point in the sky where Tatooine had last been.
"Luke?" she asked. The boy didn't react. Despite the fact that he was supposedly the same age as her, she didn't think she could honestly call the naïve and inexperienced farmboy a man, yet. Right now, he looked like a lost child.
"Luke?" she asked again. This time he looked over his shoulder, but said nothing. "Are you alright?" she asked.
He shrugged. "I've never been off-world before," he explained. "It's very…unsettling."
Leia nodded in understanding. She had been much younger than Luke when Bail had first taken her off-world, to Coruscant, the center of government for the Galactic Empire. She'd been a wide-eyed eight-year old, and even the presence of her friend and bodyguard, Winter, hadn't been enough to calm her nerves. She'd been rendered speechless when introduced to several diplomats and friends of her father, including, to her embarrassment, the leader of the Rebellion, Mon Mothma. Coruscant had been so different, so alien. The endless cityscape drew a sharp contrast to the aesthetically pleasing and serene environment of Alderaan, especially the capital city of Aldera and the picturesque landscape that surrounded it. Growing up with the blue skies of Alderaan, she'd been shocked to see the orange skies of Coruscant, the result of thousands of years of industrial activity. The only reason the atmosphere wasn't poisonous was because all weather was controlled by orbiting satellites and populated areas were dotted by atmospheric scrubbers that cleaned the air and kept it breathable. There were no large bodies of water to create chemical rain, and no plants to be killed by the poisonous precipitation.
Yet despite the appearance of a dying planet, Coruscant was a vibrant center of government and culture. With the exception of the decrepit underworld, abandoned long ago as the city was forced to expand vertically instead of horizontally, leaving centuries of urban decay literally underneath the glistening towers that now jutted ever higher into the polluted skies.
All of that said, Leia would never admit that she liked Coruscant. She tended to associate it with her often tiresome and frustrating duties as Alderaan's diplomatic representative to the Galactic Senate. Because of her young age, older, most experienced senators would often assume that she was idealistic and naïve. She surprised many of them, but even her allies treated her like a child at times. Mon Mothma knew about her secret Rebel activities, but Leia had never been involved in actual combat, though she'd been trained in marksmanship and hand-to-hand fighting at the behest of her father. Hidden in her robes was a powerful long-barreled targeting blaster that she wielded with exceptional skill. She was far more dangerous than she was given credit for.
She became aware that Luke was staring at her, and she met his inquisitive eyes with her own. Luke's eyes immediately darted away, and a faint blush became visible on his cheeks. Leia had to keep herself from smiling. The kid obviously thought she was attractive. Probably hasn't seen many girls like me on Tatooine. Leia only halfheartedly concerned herself with such things; she cared about being presentable and appealing, obviously; but her duties left her with little time to contemplate her personal beauty. Still, it was flattering that this boy thought she was pretty. She thought about asking but decided against it. She'd embarrassed him enough, and he looked so innocent, so vulnerable.
She turned to leave, to check in with Captain Antilles on the bridge before retiring to her quarters, when she heard Luke call her name. She turned to face him. "Yes?"
"I just…" he trailed off, "Who are you?" he asked. "I know…I know your name, but…"
"You'd like to know a bit more about me?" Leia suggested.
Luke nodded. "Yeah…"
Leia paused. "Well, I'll be nineteen years old in two standard months, and I was born on Alderaan." She felt a slight tinge of regret for lying to him, but she wasn't going to let this boy she barely knew into her confidence just yet. Not that she didn't trust him; she had a feeling the boy would be amazing loyal to whatever cause he dedicated himself to. The ideal soldier, she thought sadly. More of them die in war than any other type of sentient being. They all go to their graves, believing that they served a higher cause.
She realized that she had paused for quite a while, and Luke was giving her a slightly disappointed look, as he was obviously hoping for more. "Sorry, I was lost in my thoughts."
Luke smiled. "Don't worry; it happens to me all the time."
Leia smiled back at him as she organized her thoughts. "My mother, Breha, is the Queen of Alderaan…an elected queen," she added hastily. Alderaan took great pride in being a world that had kept the traditional monarchy while at the same time allowing democracy to guide the course of that world. "My father is Bail Organa, who was also Alderaan's representative to the Imperial Senate on Coruscant before I took over his duties."
Luke's eyes went wide. "You are a Senator?"
Leia nodded. "I'm the second youngest in recorded history. The youngest was another young woman named Mon Mothma, from the world of Chandrilla. Both of us were fourteen when we began."
"Wow," Luke remarked. "That's very young."
"It is," Leia admitted. "But my father trained me well. If you are wondering why I carry the title of 'Princess' it is because my mother is the queen. That said, I have no inherited claim to the throne. When my mother is either voted out of office by the Legislature or decides to retire, a new election will be held."
Luke nodded in understand. "Do you plan to run?"
"In the election?" she asked. He nodded. Leia shrugged. "I'm undecided at this point. I'm quite well-known and popular on my world, and would probably be the favorite if I decided to enter the race…men can also rule Alderaan, by the way. We have had about as many Kings as Queens."
Luke nodded. "You are certainly into politics and government," he remarked, sounding awed. Leia found his naivety and simplistic innocence both amusing and refreshing.
Leia turned back toward the viewport. "It's the only life I've known," she admitted. "I've been groomed to take an important position of state."
"Do you have any brothers or sisters?" he asked next.
Leia turned to face him, then shook her head. "No. I'm an only child. My parents had…difficulties having children, and we so pleased when I was born that they decided not to have any more children." She wondered if she should be telling him about such sensitive things, but he seemed more overwhelmed than anything else. "Is there anything else you'd like to know? I know this must be difficult for you, to leave everything you've ever known behind."
"Yeah, it is," Luke admitted. "It's weird…I always thought about leaving, and I've waited so long…and now, I actually want to go back…I don't think I'm making any sense right now," he said with a nervous chuckled. "Sorry."
"No, I understand," Leia assured him. "I have to go to the bridge and make sure everything is going well. It's several days to Alderaan. Has anyone told you where your quarters are?"
Luke nodded. "Yeah, I've got a pretty nice suite near Ben-Obi-Wan's quarters. He said he was going to be meditating, doing Jedi things I guess. I'll be alright," he added, stuttering a little.
Leia nodded and departed.
Luke nervously touched the door-chime next to the entrance to Obi-Wan Kenobi's quarters. Luke was still trying to get used to the relatively exotic name, having known the hermit as "Ben" for so long. Of course, he'd never imagined that the old man could have been a Jedi that claimed to have known his father.
Luke, like most children his age, had grown up with the legends of the Jedi. Imperial propaganda feeds proclaimed that they were power-hungry shamans that had challenged the legitimate government of the Republic and lost. But other stories had reached his eyes, stories that painted the Jedi as the guardians of peace and justice, kind and fair figures that possessed power unknown to mere mortals, but who used it to better the lives of all sentient beings. They were said to be fearsome warriors, wielding their lightsabers with a skill unparalleled in the galaxy. It was said they could bat aside a hail of blaster bolts with ease that they could jump farther and move faster than most beings in the galaxy.
Obi-Wan's voice jolted him out of his thoughts. "Come in," he said, his voice originating from the speaker located just below the button that Luke had depressed. The door slid silently open, and Luke looked around. "Don't just stand there, Luke. I'd be happy if you'd join me."
Luke stepped into the room, and the door slid shut behind him. The room he'd entered was dimly lit. Obi-Wan sat cross-legged in the middle of it, his hands, palms up, placed on his knees. He smiled and rose as he saw Luke. "Hello, my boy. What brings you here?"
"I don't know," Luke admitted. "I just needed someone to talk to. Leia's been gone for a while."
"Already on first name terms with her?" Obi-Wan asked, smiling.
Luke felt his cheeks warm, "No, it's just…well, she and I talked a bit, and she made me feel better, a little more comfortable. She told me about herself, who she is. I got the feeling she kind of felt sorry for me."
Luke didn't catch Obi-Wan's slight frown of anxiousness that was quickly covered by a pleasant smile. "The Princess is a remarkable young woman, Luke. She is intelligent, strong of mind and conviction, very kind. All features, I believe, she inherited from her parents. I'm sure you will be meeting them once we arrive on Alderaan."
Luke nodded. He was silent for almost a minute, just staring at the floor. "Are you alright?" Obi-Wan finally asked.
Luke jumped in surprise, then asked. "Why did you take me with you?"
Obi-Wan paused for a long moment. "Tatooine was never where you were meant to be, Luke. You aren't a moisture farmer. You are much greater than that. It was time for you to leave. I have watched over you, all of these years, insuring your safety."
Luke frowned. "Why? Why was I worth protecting?"
Obi-Wan didn't respond for a long moment. "The life of any sentient being is worth something, Luke. But you hold great potential within you, even if you are unable to see it. Tell me, Luke, have you ever wondered if you might have been different from all of the others. Has there ever been a time where you have done something extraordinary, something that your friends are not capable of?"
Luke thought hard, trying to remember an instance. He'd always had superb reflexes, although there were times that he executed a maneuver or fired a training laser at a womp rat before he actually saw the obstacle or the target in front of him. He'd always assumed it was simply instinct, something that he knew would serve him well at the Imperial Academy if Owen had ever let him go. "I don't know," he answered. "I suppose there have been times."
Obi-Wan took a deep breath, and for a moment, it was as if he was gazing into the distant past. His eyes grew serious, his expression grave, yet strangely hopeful. "I suppose that it is time that I tell you about you father, and who he really was."
"Owen told me he was just a navigator, a commercial crewer. But he was lying, wasn't he?"
"He was," Obi-Wan confirmed. Just as I will now lie to you. "Your father was a war hero, Luke. Anakin Skywalker was a great commander, pilot, and friend. He fought valiantly during the Clone Wars. And he was a Jedi Knight, the greatest that I ever served with."
Luke's breath caught in his throat "A…a Jedi?" he finally got out. "My father…" He trailed off in amazement. Does that mean that I…
"Yes," Obi-Wan said, smiling. "And you have inherited his gifts Luke. The Force is strong in you, very strong. Your father would have been proud."
"What happened to him?" Luke blurted. "Why did he leave me with Owen and Beru on Tatooine?"
Obi-Wan's face grew darker, and Luke had a feeling of dread. "The Jedi were leaders of the galaxy for hundreds of years, respected as peacekeepers, negotiators, and, when necessary, fearsome warriors. But the rise of Palpatine changed that. He corrupted some of the Jedi, and used them to kill those that opposed him. One of them, the greatest of his servants, is named Darth Vader. Your father tried to stop him, but he died in the process. I escaped, and went into hiding, protecting you. You have a great destiny, Luke."
Luke felt stunned, overwhelmed. It was enough that this was his first time in a starship, especially when he'd been dreaming of this day for his entire life. Now he was learning that he held great power, and that his father was a war hero. "What about my mother?" he asked.
"Her name was Padmé," Obi-Wan told him. Luke thought that it was a beautiful name, and desperately tried to search his memories for her face, her voice…anything at all about her.
He found nothing. "I don't remember her," he said.
Obi-Wan nodded. "That's hardly surprising. She died giving birth to you. I took you to Tatooine, to hide you from the Empire."
"She died?" Luke echoed. Somehow he was disappointed. It was stupid to expect his mother to be alive after so long, but…his aunt and uncle had never told him anything about her. Never mind, he told himself. She's dead, and I have to move past that.
"Are you alright, Luke?" Obi-Wan asked, frowning in concern.
"It's a lot to take in," Luke replied honestly. "I mean, I find out that my aunt and uncle have been lying to me about my parents, I leave home for the first time, and now you are claiming that I'm…aJedi?" Luke shook his head. "That can't be true."
"I am not claiming anything, Luke. You are a Jedi, strong with the Force like your father. And seeing as that is the case, I believe it is time that I return something to you that should have been yours years ago," Obi-Wan replied, reaching into his robes. He pulled out a metal hilt than gleamed like polished silver, gently handing it to the awestruck moisture farmer.
Luke turned the beautiful artifact over in his hands, studying the superb craftsmanship. He wrapped his fingers around the grip, held it away from his body, and almost by instinct, found the ignition switch. A brilliant blue blade came forth, humming with great power. Curious, Luke wielded it in a few basic cuts, and was immediately aware of the perfect balance and lightweight construction, making it far different from the odd vibro-blade he'd played around over the last few years. It felt…right, somehow, as if he'd been born to hold this weapon, to fight with it…
"A fine weapon, made and wielded by a fine warrior, your father," Obi-Wan went on, as Anakin's son discovered the wonders of a technology thousands of years old. "Not as clumsy as a blaster, or brutal as a vibro-blade. A elegant weapon, for a more civilized age."
"This is mine?" Luke asked him.
Obi-Wan nodded. "Your father would have wanted you to have it, until you have reached the point in your training when you are capable of constructing your own. But until that day," he said, nodding at the weapon, "that will serve you well."
Luke de-activated the lightsaber, staring at the old Jedi. "Are you going to train me?"
Obi-Wan nodded. "The Force holds many mysteries, Luke. But I have much that I can teach you. You will become a great Jedi."
"Maybe," Luke said, although he wasn't so certain. It was difficult to really believe he could go from a simple farmboy whose dreams of going to the Imperial Academy had been regularly dashed by his uncle to a Jedi. Such a transformation seemed utterly incomprehensible.
Obi-Wan smiled. "A certain amount of doubt is a good thing, Luke. It keeps us aware of how far we still have to travel to reach our ultimate goal. Now then, it's been a long day, and you should get some rest. We're several days from Alderaan."
Luke nodded. His body was telling him he'd be wise to take the old Jedi's suggestion. "Thanks, Ben."
The man nodded, and Luke headed back for his assigned quarters, clipping his lightsaber to his utility belt. Somehow, its added weight was quite comforting.
The Carrack-Class Cruiser Stability, better know as Stabo by her crewers, slid through the inky blackness of space, en route to the Brigia system and the new Imperial base being established atop the ruins of a Rebel stronghold. The sounds of the bridge were those of humming electronics, quiet conversations, various beeps and whirrs of a hundred different tones, and the sound of the captain's boots striking the deck as he walked back and forth, considering the phrasing of his next report to Command. They had just run into a small pirate fleet, and the Stability's skilled gunners and small TIE fighter escort had blown apart two LAFs, Light Attack Fighters and four Z-95 Headhunters before the raiders had been driven off. The freighter they'd been escorting had escaped undamaged, and had continued to the colony world of Gallax IV with its cargo of agricultural machinery. The Stability,other than some minor scorch marks amidships, had also emerged unscathed, and was preparing for the jump to its final destination. The captain whirled in the middle of his pacing, turning to face his executive officer. "Have we sent teams to ascertain the extent of the damage yet?" he asked. His voice was characterized by the clipped, refined tones of an Imperial officer, but his origins were clearly Corellian.
"Yessir. Blackwell and Gallagher both went aft. They report only superficial damage, and no hull leaks that they can detect. We're in the clear, sir," the XO replied.
Corad Julas was a Corruscanti by birth, the son of a prosperous merchant. He had also graduated from the Imperial Academy on Carrida, and was all of twenty-one years old. His superior officer wasn't much older, but he already felt like a seasoned veteran. He'd been eager to prove himself after he'd been promoted to command, one of the youngest men ever to serve as captain of an Imperial warship. He'd demonstrated his considerable skill and leadership in half-a-dozen engagements with the forces of chaos, be they Rebels, mercenaries, or pirates, such as the ones he'd dispatched with ease eight standard hours ago.
Imperial Captain Han Solo nodded to his subordinate. "Good to hear, XO." He sighed, staring out the window. "Hopefully, we'll be able to put down, and get the men some R&R. I wouldn't mind some myself."
"Going to turn on the renowned Solo charm, sir?" Julas asked, a twinkle of amusement in his eyes. "Seek some companionship?"
Han grinned back. Another advantage to being his age and in command of so many men not much younger than he was that he could enjoy the good times with them. Of course, it was his duty to ensure that his men represented the Empire they served well, and didn't get into drunken brawls…but that didn't mean he wasn't allowed to indulge every once in a while. Han's conquests, at least, the quantity of them, were legendary. It was said that the captain possessed some sort of magical powers that drew attractive young women to him like a magnet. More than once fuzz-faced recruit had asked him how he did it. Han had simply shrugged in return.
"We'll see," Han replied. "Never get yourself promoted to Captain, XO. It's triple the bureaucratic nonsense. Assuming I get through the After-Action Report, I think I'll join the crew at the local watering holes. I expect my men to be on their best behavior, of course. Brigia is a world just now coming back into the fold after the subversion by the Rebels."
Julas nodded. "Of course, sir. I will see to it personally."
"Good," Han said. "What's our ETA?"
"Twelve standard hours," the watchman, a man named Gilliam, replied.
Han nodded. "Helm?" he asked.
Another uniformed officer, named Lieutenant Gerard Harrison, spoke up. "Sir?"
"Prepare to jump to hyperspace. Coordinate 12 X 30 X 01 X 90. Fourth Planet in the Briggia System," he instructed.
"Roger that," the officer said, punching numbers into his console. "Hyperdrive powering up. Ten seconds."
Six seconds later, the frantic voice of the Stability's communications officer, 2nd Lieutenant Logan Havel, rang out across the bridge. "Captain! Transmission from Imperial Fleet Command coming in. Priority Gamma Delta Alpha."
"Standby hyperdrive," Han snapped. He turned his head toward the redheaded man who'd spoken. "Put it through." He then looked to the holographic projector located at the front of the large, open bridge of the Carrack-Class warship.
Han sucked in a breath. Just a few meters away from him was the blue hologram of Darth Vader himself. He'd never had the misfortune of encountering the Emperor's black armor-clad enforcer, but he'd heard the stories. More of the senior officers serving under him had been executed for failure than had been killed in firefights with hostiles. "Lord Vader," he said, looking down respectfully. "This is Captain Han Solo of the Stability. How may we serve the Emperor?"
"Captain Solo, I want you to track down a certain vessel that escaped the blockade of Toprawa. It is carrying sensitive information stolen from the Empire. I want you to hunt it down, prevent it from transmitting the files to other Rebel vessels, and destroy it. I am asking you because yours is the only unassigned vessel fast enough to intercept it before it reaches its destination," Vader's voice, though coming from millions of kilometers away, still chilled Han's blood.
"Very well, my Lord," Han replied. "Where is the ship headed?"
"Our instruments, as well as intelligence gathered during the…pacification of Toprawa, indicate that the vessel is headed for the Outer Rim, near Wild Space. However, we have reason to believe that its ultimate destination is Alderaan."
Han nodded, even though he hardly understood Vader's conclusion. That complicated things. Alderaan was neutral, and attacking a ship in Alderaanean space, without apparent provocation, would draw unwanted attention. "You should be receiving information concerning the ship now," Vader said.
Han looked at 2nd Lieutenant Havel, who nodded. He looked at the command console in front of him, and felt his eyes widen. "A diplomatic courier ship? Registered to an Alderaanean senator?"
"Do not make the mistake of questioning my authority, Captain," Vader said softly.
"Of course not, Lord Vader. If you say that it is a legitimate target, it is not my place to question your judgment."
"Do not allow yourself to forget that, Captain. Now, we believe that the Tantive IV has already reached its destination on the Outer Rim. Informants have reported a Corellian Corvette matching the description of your quarry in the space near the world of Tatooine. Your best course of action would be to ambush the ship as it comes out of hyperspace near Alderaan. Other ships are being routed, and a fleet is being assembled in case more…forceful action proves necessary," Vader explained.
"As you wish, sir. Helm, plot an intercept course to the Alderaan system. Standby for the jump to hyperspace."
"Aye, sir," Harrison replied.
"Your combat record thus far is exceptional, Captain," Vader said. "I have every faith in your abilities. Do not disappoint me."
The hologram faded. Han turned sharply to see his XO staring at him, eyes wide. "Lieutenant Commander Julas? Is there a problem?"
The man shook his head, shifting his feet. "No problem, sir, I'm just…"
"He's frightening," Han admitted. "But he's put his faith in our ability, and I am not going to let him down. We serve the Empire, and he represents the Emperor himself."
"Yes, sir," Julas said, although he still seemed a bit stunned. Vader can do that to people, Han thought.
"Helm, come about. Coordinates punched in?"
"Yessir, we're ready to jump," Harrison said.
Han nodded. Here we go again. Once more, he was taking his ship and his crew into battle, all for the glory of the Empire. He felt the deck shifting beneath his feet, and saw the stars flashing past the viewports as the warship changed course. Once the rotation had stopped, Han took a deep breath, fingered his rank cylinder, as he'd done since the Academy, and gave the order.
The Stabo began accelerating, faster and faster as the hyperdrive kicked in. The stars stretched into starlines, and the cruiser vanished into the depths of hyperspace.
A/N: As you might have gathered at this point, updates to this story are going to be shorter and less frequent than GM.
Luke is more naive than I am, and that's saying something. He certainly grows up over years of war, but in A New Hope he's well...an idiot. Hence Leia is a hell of a lot more articulate than he is.
There are so many hints of attraction between Luke and Leia in IV and even the beginning of V that I don't buy Lucas's claim he had the whole thing laid out before hand. If he really included that many incestuous moments...well, that just makes things worse. Seems to me he just decided they'd be siblings halfway through filming V.
I am going to try to work Chewie into the story. And Lando. And Mara. And Thrawn. And Pellaeon. (If you haven't figured out I worship at the altar of Timothy Zahn, you aren't trying hard enough). And Baron Soontir Fel. And Wedge Antillies. And maybe Tycho Celchu. And probably Winter. And hell, maybe Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors. Biggs will get some time. Keyan Farlander will get some time...and maybe he won't wait 20+ years before actually developing his Force potential. Yes, I like the video game characters. I like a lot of the expanded universe, actually. A lot of it is better than Lucas's stuff. Bottom line is that I'm going to milk this storyline for all it's worth.
So that's Han as an officer. And now, on orders direct from Vader, he's being sent after Tantive IV. Fun stuff. Han is very good at what he does.